Books Reviews

Off the Beaten Track across Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia

Off the Beaten Track across Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia by Alistair McGuinness

Three things happened simultaneously. The lioness charged, Alistair fled across the parched savannah and his wife screamed for him to run faster. Stuffed deep inside his tattered rucksack was a guidebook containing advice on what to do in wildlife emergencies, which he planned to read if he survived the next thirty seconds. Future plans to climb Kilimanjaro, teach English in the Amazon and live in Australia were temporarily forgotten as he turned to face the pouncing lioness, thinking back to the words of advice from his mother-in-law. “Don’t do anything silly, and look after Francine.” From deep underground in a remote Bolivian mine to the scorched Australian outback, this is an adventure travel story. It explores the turbulence of redundancy, the excitement of travel, the anguish of leaving home and the challenges of starting a new life in Australia.


When his factory job in Luton with Vauxhall ended unexpectedly, Alistair McGuinness uses his final pay check to travel to South America with his wife Francine.

Francine is cautious, adapts to situations easily, and gets by with the smattering of Spanish she manages to learn. The same cannot be said for Alistair who does not learn Spanish, eats without caution and invariably falls ill, and is extremely gullible.

Together, they land in a lot of trouble mainly because of making impromptu decisions, not preparing in advance, and their trusting nature. However, they manage to have an extraordinary adventure and wriggle out of all troublesome situations.

I am not much of a traveller. On the rare occasions that I do travel, I prepare for all contingencies. So, it was very interesting to read about the exploits of spontaneous travellers, such as the McGuinnesses.

I like the way Alistair has managed to write about geography, history, and everyday occurrences, without taking away from any of these. His sense of humour is quite evident from his writing, which is easy to read, keeps you engaged, and makes you feel as though you are travelling with him.

To sum up, this is a refreshing, delightful, enjoyable, well-written travelogue, with a bonus of quirky photographs, such as that of a donkey named Angus.

Note: I received an advance review copy for free from BookSirens.

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